One of my personal goals is to have the opportunity to work every day with the most extraordinary people. Zeta easily makes that happen.
Zeta is brimming with excellent individuals. As a start-up CEO, I spend a decent portion of my days pitching people on why they should believe in us, why they should support us, why banks should help finance our facilities, why we should be given special opportunities (such as receiving two of the last seven NYC charters in existence!). Zeta’s team makes this work almost easy for me because of the extraordinary individual contributions of our leaders and board members to the ed reform movement, to world-class schooling, and in other sectors well before they arrived at Zeta.
Given this aggregation of talent—and while we each have our fair share of growth areas—I have little doubt Zeta is headed for excellence. But excellence is not what we’re after. We aim to deliver a next-generation school model that will raise the bar for public education and further transform the public education landscape. Sound lofty? Some may say impossible.
How do we accomplish the impossible? Not by a mere gathering of excellent individuals. Instead, we must harness each individual’s excellence into an unstoppable team. In fact, a key premise of Zeta is that, while each of us may be able to achieve wonderful accomplishments on our own, if we work as a closely knit, trusting team, unimaginable heights are now within reach.
I have never rowed crew, but I am fascinated by it because I see a perfect analogy to the work we do. Schooling is hard—extraordinary schooling even harder. To get it right, every person on the team must have a clear role and must execute on that role in perfect synchrony and cadence. You don’t notice one particular person above the others because that’s the point—it’s a team working in unison for a singular goal. They believe in that goal, in each other, in team. Everyone gives 110% and, while exhausting, each person does it because of an unrelenting belief in the limitless potential of children and because of a faith and trust in one’s teammates to also give the same in service of our common, worthy goal.
The paradox of a perfectly synchronized and unified team is that it requires a unique investment in and understanding of the individuals on the team. What are their strengths and growth areas? What are their individual aims and struggles? What is their “sweet spot” we can tap into, activating not only excellent work but also their enjoyment and passion for the work (since enjoyment and passion are potential multipliers of contribution)? The more we invest in and explore the individual, the stronger the team.
When our cadence as a team is off, it’s painfully apparent. We become each other’s obstacles, sometimes worse obstacles than the real ones we face (such as providing world-class education, finding affordable facilities, finding the right talent, etc.). It is the responsibility of each of our leaders to ensure that we find our cadence again and maintain it because it is so important to being able to accomplish the work ahead of us. And because it’s the type of place we all signed up for: a place where we measure ourselves by the strength of team we have built.